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Netanyahu Government Hangs by a Thread as Political Bedfellows Line Up against Defense Appointee

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s attempt to broaden his razor-thin coalition of 61 (out of 120) seats in parliament by bringing controversial former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman and his “Israel is our Home Party” aboard could implode and bring down the government altogether as strange political bedfellows line-up in a rare confluence of causes. One coalition member has already said he would resign in protest of the appointment of Lieberman to the post of defense minister and the party headed by education minister Naftali Bennett could exit the coalition altogether if Bennett’s demands to increase the role of the security cabinet are not met. (Bennett’s party’s “no” vote would veto the appointment by a 62 to 58 margin). In a moment of political irony, Israel’s farthest left wing Meretz Party announced support for Bennett’s ultimatum despite the latter’s far-right political alignment. The Netanyahu government’s justice minister told army radio on Saturday that her party (Bennett-led Jewish Home) is willing to go to elections if the demands regarding the security cabinet are not met. Meanwhile, the murky political landscape become more confusing with reports of new outreach by Netanyahu loyalists to entice opposition to enter a unity government – a move some dismiss as pressure aimed at Bennett but others say has been the prime minister’s preference all along. Some opposition members have denied the reports. Typical of Israeli politics, polls are already touting the “what-ifs” – in this case, the formation of a new party headed by the recently-fired defense minister Moshe Ya’alon; former Netanyahu ally-turned-political-foe Gidon Sa’ar; and finance minister Moshe Kahlon that one survey has taking the government away from Netanyahu’s Likud Party and cutting opposition Labor’s representation in parliament to a mere 11 seats.